How Do You Know If a Company is Spying on You?
The bottom line is that it is difficult, if not impossible, for an employee to know whether his or her employer is monitoring digital activity.
Legally, an employer is allowed to create workplace rules and regulations. These can be very broad in scope. When it comes to monitoring software, employers have the right to track workers’ behavior, but they must inform employees of the right to do so. However, employers are not required to inform employees of what software they are using or what kind of information they are collecting.
Often, monitoring software is difficult to detect and remove. You might not even know that it’s there.
So, to look back at our example, Karina’s employer Polygon is allowed to digitally monitor her. They do not have to tell her what software they are using or what they are tracking. They might be watching Karina’s keystrokes, and she would never know about it. Under current laws, this is all legal.
Do You Have a Right to Privacy on Personal Devices?
When it comes to using company devices, such as computer and phones, employees currently have no right to privacy.
It’s true that an employer must inform an employee if he or she is being monitored. While the employer must provide this knowledge, an employee has no real ability to decline.
Let’s look at an example:
When Fabio starts his new job at New Horizons, a political think tank, his employer informs him that the company uses monitoring software on their issued laptops. Fabio tells his employer that he’s not comfortable with the company tracking his productivity. His boss orders him to download the software onto his laptop, or he’s fired.
Well, according to the law, New Horizons is well within its rights to fire Fabio for not downloading the software.
How Can You Protect Your Privacy?
As an employee, it is important to keep your company devices and your personal devices separate. Some people might feel more comfortable working on their personal computers or phones, but this opens the door to being spied on by your employer.
Also, when working on company devices, it is good practice to assume everything you do on the computer and phone is not private. This includes what you do on the company email, Slack, and Zoom.
Caution is best!
How Are Workplace Privacy Laws Changing?
Currently, the California Consumer Protection Act requires businesses to be transparent about the information they’re collecting on customers, how they get it, and how they plan to use it. But that only concerns the right of customers. When it comes to employees, employers have been protected from providing this information to their workers. However, that protection expires in 2023, so there may be changes coming.
Workers’ rights advocates are also pushing for employers to be required by law to tell employees when electronic monitoring is being used. Specifically, they want employers to clarify when monitoring occurs, what kind of monitoring it is, and the purpose for the monitoring.